From Retirement To National Duty – This Man Wuon Magak
Paul ‘Sketh’ Owino, Geroge ‘Big G’ Mbaye, Joshua ‘The Reign’ Chisanga and most recently Brian ‘Floyd’ Sagara. This weekend, when the men’s Elgon cup encounter kicks off at the RFUEA, we will add two names to this great list, McLanhan ‘Maki’ Sikukuu and this man George ‘Wuon Magak’ Asin.
In case you are wondering what I am on about, these gentlemen are among a few crop of players that have plied their trade either side of Mt. Elgon and have represented Kenya against Uganda, in the annual Elgon Cup.
This is the story of one of the inductees into that list, a man who, had things gone the other way, would have been in Uganda colours on Saturday. The story of George Ochieng Asin. Coincidentally at the weekend he will be starting alongside his fellow inductee McLanhan Sikukuu at the front row.
The holder of a degree in I.T from the Makerere university, George is the fifth born of the Asin household. One of the bubbliest characters I have encountered in life, his story through rugby to this day, reads like a fairy tale.
A man whose love for this sport can only be matched by his love for Ribena, food (especially potatoes) and rugby boots, in that order. Having spent 13 years or rather, a good chunk of his school life across the border, few will know this Uganda side than this man Wuon Magak. (Hope they have changed their line out calls!)
He first picked up a rugby ball in Uganda’s St. Lawrence London College, in 2002. Since then, he has wowed crowds across the Kampala-Busia Highway all the way to Nairobi, and back. During his stay at the London College, alongside the likes of now KRU Director Oscar Mango, he lifted the National schools’ title in both 15s and 7s.
In the same period he trained with Mwamba RFC when he came back home for the holidays. He then moved on to Paris Palais also part of the St. Lawrence Schools in 2006 for his A Levels, where he captained his side to several runner up finishes.
In 2007 he had his first big break, being called up to the Uganda U-19 squad. As a Kenyan citizen he had to relinquish this, to be eligible to play. A step he couldn’t take, thus only trained with the side. Wonder what would have happened if he did change citizenship.
In 2008, George would have his first major setback. Now at the Makerere university, he broke his leg in October playing, wait for it..inter hall rugby. To this point, Asin had been playing as a first centre or fly half, a fact many to this day, do not believe.
Over the next two years, apart from gaining a huge amount of kilos, he contemplated quitting the game, indeed on many occasions he had hang his boots. Fortunately he did not!
Having sustained his injury as a 90 kg Fly half/inside centre, he made his comeback in 2010, as a 110 kg hooker for Makerere’s famous rugby side, Impis RFC.
He spent two season at Impis, helping the side finish fourth in the Uganda Cup before moving to the G4S Pirates where he spent one season before clearing his degree, there being no other business for him to transact in Uganda, George made his way back home at the end of 2012.
Having learned his trade and almost entirely plied it in Uganda, it was time for George to mix it up with the big boys at home. It took him little or no time to break into the KCB side.
A Fly half now turned hooker, Asin packed a rare combination of abilities, he was the dream front row. Packed with the skill of a deft fly half and now the weight of a baby hippo. He could break defence lines with a wide range of ammo. Solid at the set piece, with line out throws that would put a professional archer to shame.
In the 2013/14 season, he won the Floodlite title going on to lift the Mwamba Cup and Eric Shirley Shield with the Cubs. He was part of the all conquering Lions side that swept the 15’s 2014/15 season, it was at this point he saw it fit to call it a day on his now rising rugby career.
At the end of that season he announced his retirement from rugby, complete with several emotional status updates on his social media pages, thanking all who had helped him along the way. It was the full works, he even gave out his rugby kit and boots (Nike Magistas, yes!)
A few days into his ‘retirement’ as he was enjoying a cold glass of ribena, roasted potatoes and a cup of tea (trust me, he takes everything with tea), watching the sunset over the horizon, he receives a call from his KCB coach Curtis Olago informing him of his selection to try out for the Kenya A side.
This Saturday one of George’s long running dream will come to pass. He will run out with the number 2 at the back of his shirt, the Lion on his chest, as he represents the country of his birth against a country he calls his second home.
He says that he can’t wait for Saturday, when he will face old friends some of whom have played a major role in shaping his rugby career. He wouldn’t let this opportunity pass without shouting out a few individuals from across the border, who he is forever grateful to.
Christine Kizito, current URU C.E.O Ramsey Olinga, Herbert Wafula, current Western Bulls head coach Brian Makalama and Sam Ahamia. Since he hasn’t decided on whether he has indeed hang his new pair of boots, I’ll hold on to the Kenyan chapter of the salamz.
So on Saturday right after we have cheered the Lionesses to victory, keep a close eye on the Kenya A number 2, (he will be the one with the big stomach, very hard to miss, you’ll most likely find him on the wings catching his breath hehe) as he lives out his dream!